Tuesday, November 30, 2004

This week's Sports Commentary

I've been reading Hunter S. Thompson's "The Proud Highway," and it's reinspired my love of the job, even at this menial Army stage of the game.

Anyway, yesterday I wrote this column, which is set to appear in Thursday's edition of The Turret.

Scandals! Brawls! Partial nudity!

I hate to add more ink to the tremendous puddle that’s already been spilled over all these controversies rocking the sports world, but seriously, when material comes this good, it’s a hard temptation to resist.

Speaking of which, apparently networks have had a hard time resisting the urge to replay the footage from the Pacers/Pistons brawl a couple weekends ago. You couldn’t turn on a television set last week without getting at least a segment of the Ron Artest et al ruckus in Detroit.

Who’s at fault in this one? Artest may very well be certifiably insane, but as my colleague – Spc. Christopher Fincham – has pointed out, the sparks really started to fly thanks to a miraculously-thrown cup of beer launched by a "fan" in the stands, which hit Artest as he was lying on the scorer’s table.

Fincham also noted the fact that the missile – as well as the large amount of beer dumped on players as they left the court – was given the gift of flight in the fourth quarter of the game. The venue is supposed to stop serving alcohol during the third.

The man who threw the beer was identified as John Green, who apparently has a criminal record that includes a 1989 conviction for "assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder" of a Michigan woman.

So, Artest isn’t the only one with a spotted history. Green, strangely enough, reportedly lives next door to the county prosecutor.

So far Artest has been suspended without pay for the rest of the season, and other players involved have received lesser penalties. But what about the Detroit fans who were at the Palace? Aren’t they to blame, too? Some have suggested disallowing the venue from selling beer, but the vendors would scream bloody murder if they couldn’t make thousands of dollars off beverage sales.

As if this whole fiasco wasn’t strange enough, the cup that struck Artest appeared briefly on eBay last Monday, but according to ESPN, it was taken off Tuesday when the bidding went up to $99,999,999.

And that’s not all. The Turret has learned that CI Host, an Internet hosting company, is offering $10,000 to the first player or fan who threw a punch captured on camera during the brawl who comes forward and tattoos the company logo on his or her fist. That’ll surely teach them not to start fights at sports events.

This is hardly an isolated event. We had the Steelers and the Browns knocking the sense out of each other a couple weekends ago, and the bench-clearing, state trooper charging, two-team stampede at the Clemson/South Carolina game.

Add to this the Eagles' Terrell Owens’ now-infamous Monday Night Football skit with "desperate housewife" Nicollete Sheridan, and you’ve got the makings for an Oliver Stone-directed feature-length episode of The Jerry Springer Show. We just need Dale Earnhardt Jr. on hand to supply the necessary colorful language.

It will be interesting to see what form the eventual fallout from all these violent altercations takes. I suppose fans could be strapped into seats with padded harnesses like the ones on rollercoasters. Or, games could take place inside huge plexiglass bubbles like the ones that cover those arcade hockey machines.

Whatever happens, it won’t be good either for sports or the people who love them.